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Raising inclusionists, one book at a time

Nurturing a sense of inclusion and diversity in our children is paramount as we navigate a world so diverse, digital and dispersed. As parents, educators, and mentors, we hold the responsibility to guide the next generation towards embracing differences and creating a more inclusive society.

One of the most practical and effective ways to achieve this is through diversifying the literature they read. By exposing children to books that reflect a wide range of cultures, experiences, and perspectives, we can help them understand and appreciate belonging, diversity, equity and inclusion. 

This blog post explores the benefits of diversifying literature, some of our favorite books on BDEI for children and guiding questions to encourage critical thinking.

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Benefits of diversifying literature

  • Improved vocabulary, academic performance & zest for learning. Exposing children to diverse stories enhances their vocabulary and reading skills. This contributes to better academic performance as students develop critical thinking and cognitive abilities through varied texts. Engaging with diverse literature also promotes lifelong learning by sparking curiosity and encouraging a deeper understanding of different cultures and social issues (Shapiro, Anderson & Anderson, 1997).
  • Cultural competence, better understanding of the world & reduced prejudice. Diverse literature enhances cultural competence, helping readers understand and interact effectively with people from different backgrounds. By introducing various cultural practices and perspectives, these books foster a broader worldview. Additionally, stories featuring different social groups can combat stereotypes and reduce prejudices, promoting a more accepting and understanding outlook (Vezzali, Stathi, & Giovannini, 2012; Cameron, Rutland, Hossain, & Petley, 2011).
  • Empathy, social insight & mental well-being. Reading about characters from diverse backgrounds fosters empathy and social insight, allowing readers to experience the lives and emotions of others. This immersive experience helps build inclusive communities and reduces social divisions. Furthermore, diverse literature improves mental well-being by providing a sense of belonging and validation for readers who see themselves represented, and by offering therapeutic benefits through stories of overcoming challenges (Mar, Tackett & Moore, 2010; Adrian, Clemente, Villanueva, & Rieffe, 2005).

Some of our favorite books -

We have read these books in Dutch.

Getting into dialogue

Rising inclusionists mean modeling dialogue and encouraging critical thinking to ensure that children think deeply about the stories they read and apply the lessons to their own lives, fostering a greater understanding of belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Below are some questions to guide your discussions (click on each topic tab to reveal the questions):

In other words

Diversifying the literature that children read is a powerful tool for teaching equity. By exposing children to a wide range of cultures, experiences, and perspectives through books, we can help them understand the importance of fairness, justice, and the need to support marginalized communities. As parents and educators, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to guide the next generation towards a more inclusive and equitable society through the stories we share and the discussions we foster.

What now

So what now? What can you do differently? If you are interested in some quick micro-actions, here are some tips:

  • Host a cultural storytelling night. Host a family or classroom storytelling night where children and adults share stories from their cultural backgrounds.
  • Curate a diverse bookshelf. Include books by authors from different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds in your personal or classroom library.
  • Promote diverse authors. Share and recommend books by diverse authors within your community and on social media.
  • Engage in diverse reading programs. Participate in or support reading programs that focus on diverse literature.
  • Discuss and reflect. Encourage discussions about the themes and perspectives presented in diverse books to deepen understanding and empathy.

By taking these small but meaningful steps, we can help create a more inclusive and empathetic world, one book at a time. Enjoy reading to children and learning together! #

References

  • Adrian, J. E., Clemente, R. A., Villanueva, L., & Rieffe, C. (2005). Parent–child picture-book reading, mothers’ mental state language and children’s theory of mind. Journal of Child Language, 32(3), 673-686.
  • Cameron, L., Rutland, A., Hossain, R., & Petley, R. (2011). When and why does extended contact work? The role of high quality direct contact and group norms in the development of positive ethnic intergroup attitudes amongst children. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(2), 193-206.
  • Mar, R. A., Tackett, J. L., & Moore, C. (2010). Exposure to media and theory-of-mind development in preschoolers. Cognitive Development, 25(1), 69-78.
  • Shapiro, J., Anderson, J., & Anderson, A. (1997). Diversity in parental storybook reading. Early Child Development and Care, 127(1), 47-58.
  • Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., & Giovannini, D. (2012). Indirect contact through book reading: A field experiment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(3), 580-598.
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